Home of Princess Dracula?
Sárvár is a small town in Hungary, 25 km east of Szombathely. With its 15,000 inhabitants today it´s the 7th most popular settlement in Hungary thanks mainly to its thermal spa. The medicinal thermal water was accidentally discovered in 1961 by oil explorers. Since then locals and tourists especially from the neighboring countries used to come to enjoy the benefits of the medicinal water. The recent years more than 700.000 tourists visited the spa annually. This number is relevant if we consider that Europe´s largest spas receive annually around 1.5 million tourists. We´ve been at Sárvár before, for bathing of course. This time we decided to spend a little more time and not only enjoy the healing water but also to find out a little more about the history of the town and its surroundings.
Sárvár is not counted among the epic and popular places of the world. Actually, it has only one tourist attraction besides the spa: the castle. Thanks to its nature and geographical position, the area has been beneficial for life for thousands of years ago. Archaeological findings show that the region was inhabited in prehistoric times and belonged to the Romans from 10 BC until the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin. The conquering Hungarians favored the woodland, and hilly landscape, which, thanks to the presence of lakes and rivers, was home to a rich wildlife. Around the first millennia, a castle was built at Sárvár, which, due to its strategic location over time, was quite popular among the rulers and was often fought for.
Among its most famous owners are Hungarian King Charles I of the House of Anjou (commonly known as Robert Charles), the Nádasdy and Eszterházy family and lately the Wittelsbach dynasty. The Turks attacked the castle several times, but unsuccessfully. The Nádasdy family built it into a fortress with 5 Italian bastions surrounded by wet ditches, successfully defending it thus against the Turkish attacks. The interior decoration has changed a great deal from the original, but the ceiling paintings of Hans Rudolf Miller and the side-wall paintings of István Dorfmeister have remained in the ceremonial hall.
While the former captures the battles with the Turks, the latter captures Old Testament stories.
The castle was home also for the so called ˝Princess Dracula˝, Báthory Erzsébet, the wife of Nádasdy Ferenc. Báthory Erzsébet was accused of witchcraft and murder, but this was never proved. Actually, the witnesses never claimed having seen her murder anyone, they said they only heard others witnessing her committing the crimes.
Nor has anyone seen her bathing in blood or drinking it. Some speculations claim she was a healer and she was only trying to treat the wounded and sick using methods and herbs which were unknown for regular folks. Whether she was a murderer, a healer or only a victim of the political plays of the time, we will never know.
The Nádasdy family lost eventually the castle in 1653 due to the failure of the Magnate conspiracy (also called the Wesselényi conspiracy) through which the Hungarian and the Croatian tried to get rid of the influence of the Habsburgs and other foreigners. The failure resulted in the decapitation of Nádasdy Ferenc and his alias and the distribution of his wealth. The castle of Sárvár was acquired by Draskovich Miklós.
Later on the castle was bought by the Eszterházy family and the Wittelsbach dynasty who used to take refuge in the castle during the wars. This was a fortunate matter, as the castle survived only because it had permanent residents, whereas most of the other Hungarian castles and fortresses were destroyed by the Habsburgs for military strategical reasons.
The residents of the castle kept renovating it and the current state is the result of renovations from 2017-2018. Beside the well-preserved ceremonial room, visitors can view a large exhibition of the Nádasdy Hussars, a fast-moving and light armed cavalry established by Nádasdy Ferenc.
The hussars proved very useful in the wars against the Turks and they gained international recognition. Among their tasks we can count the disruption of the enemies, espionage, the lateral defense on the battle fields. The hussars fought even in World War I on the Russian and Italian battlefront, but it became more and more evident that the classical equestrian cavalry´s time is up and they´ve been replaced by modern military vehicles and firearms. Several halls display the guns and swords, the uniforms and tools used by the hussars, as well as portraits of the bravest and proudest cavalry of Hungary.
By the end of the tour we can also view a photography exhibition illustrating the life in Sárvár in the 20th century and a smaller exhibition of porcelains from Herend.
September – June : Tuesday – Sunday: 9:00 – 17:00
July – August : Tuesday – Sunday: 9:00 – 21:00
Entrance fee: 1600 Ft (about 5 Euros), reduced 800 Ft (about 2.5 Euros)